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Help for the Helpless

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

Last week we looked at how Jesus healed a royal official's son. If you remember, Jesus healed the boy before his father got back home. We learned from that healing the importance of deepening faith in our lives. A deeper faith is more important than a healing.

Today we arrive at another healing. The healing of the official's son happened in the north. Today's healing happens in the south. The difference in direction and distance between the two healings is symbolically significant. John 5 turns a corner where opposition to and hatred of Jesus begins to build. This is the beginning of the long journey to his crucifixion and death. In a strange twist, a healing is the catalyst for opposition to Jesus.

In the miracle recorded in John 5:1-18, we'll focus on one thing..We'll see how Jesus works to help us when we're helpless. It's something you might want to write down:


Before we look at that, we need a little geography. Jerusalem. A lot of what we read in the gospels happens in and around Jerusalem. Take a look at these two illustrations…

You've got the city wall and the Temple. Somewhere within the mix of city and streets there is also Herod's Palace. Who lives in Herod's Palace? Right…

King Herod.

The healing we're looking at today takes place in a pool called Bethesda. You can see it in the illustration. Besides the geography, another important thing to understand is the Jewish calendar. There is a feast holiday going on, so when folks gather at the Bethesda pool, there's more than usual. It's crowded. Jerusalem is the religious and cultural center of power. Holy days are a big deal.

So, Jesus comes to Jerusalem. With purpose, he walks past the Bethesda pool. John records his simplest, most profound miracle. It is life changing.

Jesus is there during a feast day. There are lots of sick and disabled people at the pool. As Jesus walks through the crowd, one person catches his attention. Let's pick things up at verses 3-5:

In these lay a multitude of invalids - blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

That's incredible. This guy has been helpless for 38 years.

While it might not last that long, most of us have had times of helplessness in our lives. It may be a point of helplessness where a relationship isn't working out. It may be a habit you can't seem to break. It may be a hurt you can't get passed. It may be a defeatist attitude holding you in its grip. It could be a growing dissatisfaction with life in general. Perhaps you feel you could be a better parent or employer or employee. Maybe you'd like to have a stronger faith, or be a more positive witness for Christ. Whatever the reason or for however long, most of us have had moments of helplessness in our lives.

Here's a man who has had a disability for 38 years. We don't know whether that's been his whole life or just the last 38 years of his life. We don't know. All we know is it's been a long time. How would you feel dealing with something for that long with no way of treating it or helping you adjust to it? Every time I'm out someplace and see one of those service dogs in training, I think what a blessing they are for people who need them. Whatever this guy is struggling with, all he has is a pool with supposedly magical powers. They think the natural, effervescent bubbling action of the spring-fed pool is a sign of some angel of mercy giving it special healing powers.

How do you think he felt?

How would you have felt?

No matter how long you've felt helpless, God wants to work in you and through you. The Bible is full of stories about how God works in and through helpless lives. It's what He does. One way or another, for those who are called according to His purpose, God brings hope to hopelessness. As Paul reminds us, God works for good for those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose. One way or another, God brings help to the helpless.

Verse 6 says,

"When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, 'Do you want to be healed?'"

What a question, right? Of course I want to be healed. I come to this pool all the time.

Sometimes, though, people give up. They give in. They are resigned to the way things are. They see no possibility for something new. So Jesus asks the man, do you think I can make you well? Jesus opens up to this man…and to us…the hope of changed lives.

Here's the first thing we know:

1. Jesus sees him.

Our passage says there were multitudes at the pool. Jesus sees this one person. Jesus sees him. And what that means is Jesus sees you. He sees you in the same way he sees the man at the Bethesda pool. Jesus looks at each and every one of us the way he sees this man. He focuses on you and your life. Jesus sees you.

The second thing we know is:

2. Jesus Christ knows

Jesus knows the man's condition. He knows. Jesus knows what we're going through. He knows what we're facing.

Here's a truth about our Savior you might want to write down:


That's the glorious thing about Jesus Christ. When he was on earth, he was limited by most of the things that limit us. But as the resurrected Lord, reigning in glory, he shares the same attributes as the Father. He experienced life as we experienced life. And now Jesus sees us and he knows us. He understands what we're going through. He knows why we're hurting. He knows what it will take to make a difference in our lives. That's how great our Savior is. He saw the man at the pool and he knew his condition. Jesus Christ knows.

The third thing we know is:

3. Jesus Christ asks a question

Already, in these early chapters of John, we have seen how Jesus engages people in conversation. He loves and respects them so much, he asks questions. Jesus engages us and changes us by asking questions.

"Do you want to be healed?" That's the question Jesus asks. Think about the depth to that question. "Do you want to be healed?"

Let's be honest. Sometimes we get comfortable with our sickness…or our hurt…or our habit…or our hang-up. Sometimes we get comfortable with our sin. While at one level we say, "Heck, yes, I want to be healed," at another we're afraid of change. We're afraid of new responsibilities and expectations. It's the old, better the devil you know than the one you don't know. I've established this routine. I've learned to manage my sin. I live with it.

"Do you want to be healed," Jesus asks.

Jesus asks a question. It seems Jesus wants him to be healed. I wonder if the man is thinking, "Jesus is going to pick me up and carry me to the water before anybody gets in." Remember, there a huge superstition around the pool. When it starts bubbling, that's where the magic happens. How else is Jesus going to heal him?

Look at the simplicity of the moment. "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." With those words, Jesus activates faith in the man's heart. It's not the water that heals. The word of Jesus Christ heals. And this moment isn't primarily about the physical healing. The physical healing is merely the means of expressing a more important truth. It is the word of Jesus Christ spoken into our hearts that activates our faith and moves us to live full and victorious lives. And that's beyond healing. This guy is healed. But in so many other lives, faith is activated and life us lived fully and victoriously in the midst of illness or disability or hardship. The only healing that matters eternally is healing from our sin. That's what happens when the Word of Christ activates faith in our hearts.

Here's something else you might want to write down:

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

That is so important. Sometimes, in our stuckness, we gather around the pool of misery. It can become a place of comfort. Or we give up because we think there's no way out. Or we give in to the sin because we've done it before and we are resigned to the inevitability of the thing. It's as if we believe our sin more than our Savior. That's where we need to believe that Jesus wants us to get up, take up our bed, and walk with him.

Jesus says, "Get up." Here's something I want you to understand about that moment. In this instance, for a particular reason, at this particular moment in Jesus' ministry, God chose to heal this man. Remember, there are lots of sick people at the pool who don't get healed. Not everyone gets healed. We know that. Most of us know that all too well. We've had loved ones battling some kind of disease or another, and they either remain disabled or they die, too soon. We know not everyone gets healed. But that's not the most important point. The most important point is Jesus Christ activates faith in our lives. The most important point is that all who are in Christ get meaning and purpose in this life, however God desires that meaning and purpose to look like, and get to praise God forever. That's the most important point.

Where in your life do you need to get up, pick up your bed, and walk? Jesus Christ gives you the power to get up and he gives you the power to walk. Do you believe that? Do you trust him? It's amazing what God can do with our helplessness if we let Him. God helps the helpless.

But there's one last thing we need to understand. "Get up, and walk" isn't

always literal. It is moving forward. "Walk" is growing as a person. It is growing in your faith. "Walk" is letting God's glory shine through our sense of helplessness to inspire others. Remember, deeper than your present challenge or hardship is the eternal trajectory of your life. Will our lives show we are living out of our faith in Jesus Christ? Will we persevere? Will we thrive regardless of our current circumstances? I've said this before, so obviously I think it's worth repeating. There are two kinds of people. Because of and in spite of. "I can't do this because of…" Or, "I do this in spite of…" Which one is an attitude rooted in the power and presence of Jesus Christ?

I can't explain how He does it, but God uses our weaknesses. God helps the helpless to His glory. Obviously, all physical wounds and illnesses aren't healed. But for those who are in Christ, God heals the lost, the lonely, the brokenhearted, the spiritually wounded, those with hurts, habits, or hang-ups. There is healing and wholeness in Christ.

That is the miracle at the Bethesda pool.

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